Comparing MEAP Platforms: The Importance of Vendor Neutrality

When I set out to perform my 2013  MEAP Platform Comparison the contrasts between three leading platforms stood out: Magic xpa, Sybase SUP and Antenna AMP seem similar on the surface, but one does not have to dig very deep to see fundamental differences in approach, capabilities and potential.

One of the key elements to a successful customer experience, and one that is sometimes overlooked, is vendor neutrality. When vendors have multiple product lines and parent companies to consider, political constraints can limit their ability to offer their MEAP platform without biasing it towards their other unwanted technologies. So a MEAP platform may work well with one type of MDM but poorly with others and it will surprise no one to learn that the one that works well is sold by a parent company, another division or even the same company.

And that’s if you get lucky, sometimes not even that system is supported well, but it is the one that is recommended because of its internal affiliations and not its merits. Both SAP Sybase and Antenna are compromised by their MDM affiliation. Even when it is not clear today whether the number of MDM policies supported by the MEAP are related to affiliations, there is always the risk that these affiliations will taint the unbiased nature of that support in the future in favor of proprietary considerations.

A MEAP that is too closely affiliated to a particular ERP company is especially problematic. This is obviously recognized even by SAP as they have been somewhat slow in dropping the Sybase name. They understand that once SUP becomes known strictly as an SAP product it is at risk of not only appearing to lose independence, but it may in a very real sense become a tool of a particular ERP rather than a true MEAP with appeal to the broader market. Ironically, over a period of years, this will have negative impacts for SAP users as well as Sybase SUP becomes increasingly insular and the reduced threat of competition reduces the need to keep pace with innovation.

When it comes to mobile integration, vendor neutrality is essential. Not only must your MEAP platform remain neutral, the vendor must be actively committed to neutral integration. Some call it passionate agnosticism.

These philosophies can be clearly seen in the kinds and types of integration offered. Antenna has a Netweaver only SAP integration approach and Sybase SUP supports integration via SAP Java methods only whereas Magic has SAP Certified Integration and supports Netweaver, XI/PI, BAPI and IDOC methods of integration and is not restricted to Java only. And of course SAP is not the only ERP system out there. Unlike the others, Magic also has Oracle Validated Integration and offers integration to Microsoft Dynamics and other systems as well. And I believe it is also because of this passionately agnostic approach that Magic is also the only MEAP vendor with CRM integration including a certified Salesforce.com adapter and support for Dynamics CRM, Sugar CRM, Remedy, and many others.  Magic also supports Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategies for Mobile through its SharePoint adapters and IBM Certified Ready for Lotus Notes / Domino Connector.

While it is true that all these vendors support WS-I and RESTful Web Services, in this modern age, these are simply not enough to offer confidence to enterprise architects seeking a sound mobile integration policy for the future. Sybase for example has no support for message queues, while Antenna supports only two of the three major MQ protocols. And Antenna fails to support a single native database gateway, a certain barrier to scalability and elasticity of architecture, dooming them to small scale implementations only. And even SAP Sybase only supports three native database gateways while Magic has built-in support for 15 native database gateways and is obviously the only vendor with an active commitment in this area.

I guess no one should be surprised that Victorinox, the makers of the original Swiss Army Knife are satisfied Magic customers. In simile to its customer, Magic is neutral but ready at a moment’s notice to adapt its tools to any enterprise integration requirement. Not all MEAPs are the same. 

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